The cemetery gate was cool beneath her fingers, the wrought iron smooth. A fine, warm mist beaded on the metal, rolling across her hand, turning the lavender silk at her wrist a deeper purple. With a soft clink, the latch lifted. The moon peeked out from behind fat gray clouds for a moment, watching, and then slipped away again. She pushed the gate open, the hinges squeaking, making her way by memory around the headstones of her great-great-grandparents and great-grandparents and grandparents and great-aunts and great-uncles and cousins and second cousins and so many others known to her only by their names and the ugly portraits in the grand hall.
Her father’s headstone stood far, far to the back, far from the mother she could only remember as the scent of mint and cranberries; far, far to the back, surrounded by empty grass.
She stopped at the edge of his plot. A faint reddish stain rimmed the perimeter. The moon peeked out again. She pushed back the hood of her cloak, feeling the mist settle on her hair, weigh it down. Slipping her hand down the cleavage of her gown, she pulled out two small bags. Candles in one, each barely the size of her smallest finger: red and black and purple, which she set atop the headstone and lit. In the second, powered angelica root, beggary, indigo and peppermint, cedar and chicory, rooster bones and claws. She walked the border of the plot, sprinkling the powder as she chanted the seventeenth psalm. Hear, O Lord, a just suit; attend to my outcry; hearken to my prayer from lips without deceit. From you let my judgment come; your eyes behold what is right.
She stopped at the foot of the plot. The candles hissed and sputtered. Sweeping the cloak across her knees, she knelt, tucking her feet carefully so as not to stain the toes in the wet grass.
“Good evening, Papa.” She smiled down the soft bump of ground. “It is a fine night for a party, is it not?”
A moan reached her ears. A stifled thump.
“Just the sort of night you once enjoyed. A hearty meal, a glass of wine, cigars in the parlor with your gentlemen friends. And when they had all gone home — well ….” Her throat caught, her voice stopped.
She leaned down, whispering. “That darkness, Papa; that heavy, suffocating dark, that weight, crushing. I know that darkness, that suffocating weight, Papa. I couldn’t breathe, Papa, for years. For years and years.”
Scratching and scrabbling. Another long moan.
She leaned closer, the grass tickling her cheek. “Do not rest in peace, Papa.”
The candles, pooled atop the headstone, stuttered and went out. Rising, she peeled the wax loose and dumped it into the two bags. She toed aside a bit of loose stone at the base of the marker and added the bags to the dozen others already piled in the small hole; remnants from last month, and the month before, and the month before that, binding, binding him forever.
A loud guttural grunt. Scratching.
The mist in her hair glistened in the moonlight. Pulling the hood back over her head, she turned her back on the plot. Her guests would be arriving soon, and a fine feast it would be.